Karl and Rachel don’t have a fancy website, they don’t do social media, and their sewing room is a tiny space in an industrial unit, near Battersea cats and dogs home. Called Sienna Couture, all the top designers like Christopher Kane and Vivienne Westwood and department stores like Harrods, all go to them to get their samples made. They are the best in the industry, but are also very modest, discrete and professional. And they were very kind taking time out to explain their work, from pattern making, designing, working with very tricky fabrics from chainmail to rubber, as well as transforming 2D sketches into stunning ballgowns ready to wear.
Rachel showed me some of the clothes she had recently made. One took over 200 hours to do the embroidery on the bodice. It was all sewn by Rachel by hand. Another long sleeve silk blouse was as beautiful on the inside as the outside. In the shops it will sell for more than £900.
Rachel demonstrated how to inserts a concealed zip and how to sew a french seam. Two techniques she says are important to master if you want to make clothes well. A fascinating insight to a world I never knew even existed.
The remainder of the day was spent back in the studio finishing off my shorts and working on my sketchbook.
Challenge: sew lace round the bottom of shorts
This was quite tricky because I had already made my shorts so had to sew round in a circle. If I was doing this again I would sew the lace on before I completed the side seams. Still very pleased with how it turned out.
In the evening Clare Burgess came to talk to us about merchandising. She has worked for Top Shop and managed a budget of more than £300 million. I had never hear of merchandising before meeting Clare. She explained the role of the buyer, designer and merchandiser in the fashion business and why it is important. I will write this up as a separate blog.